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How Online Learning Helps Career and Economic Progress for Women

COVID-19 poses a major risk for women's professional development and advancement. Online learning is one tool to fill the gap.

Due to homeschooling responsibilities, industry closures due to lockdowns and a destabilized economy, COVID-19 slowed female economic progress. Organizations such as UN Women highlighted the need for action to counteract these issues. Women’s advancement in entrepreneurship and business must recover. Women make up 39 percent of the global workforce but represent 54 percent of pandemic job losses. Their impact on the GDP growth over the next decade could be significant. So, what can women use to succeed in the post-pandemic working world? Online learning and a widened hiring pool from remote work.

Opportunities presented by a remote economy

Despite the negative impacts of the pandemic on women’s careers, there have been some positive developments for recovery and a future that better supports women’s needs. The rise in virtual interactions during lockdown proved that remote structures are viable for many industries – including  education. Shifting to remote work and study also encourages flexibility from employers and educational institutions trying to honor individual circumstances. 

Embracing employee autonomy

Many employees and students have thrived within these new circumstances. They have more autonomy over how they organize their daily schedules to fit their lifestyle and personal responsibilities. Previously, work was designed around the needs of the employer. Now, many businesses see that daily commutes and rigid working hours are not necessarily how to get the best out of their employees.

With many companies now set up for flexible, remote structures, the scope for suitable roles widened. No one is limited by travel time and the commute. In the past, a job offer in another city often meant considering relocation, which is disruptive for employees, partners and dependents. Recent developments caused a shift that widened potential job searches on a national and global scale.

The pandemic also caused an acceleration in technology and technical skills. Employees learned new software and apps to conduct work in a new environment: home.  These skills will be beneficial for future opportunities as they show valuable technical literacy.

Upskilling with online learning

Gaining new career skills has never been easier to accomplish. Remote working showed many working women that flexible telecommuting was a great solution to adapting work around parenting and other life goals. With many industries impacted by the pandemic, making a career shift may also be a constructive choice. Remote work has highlighted that remote studying with an online educational institute may be just as achievable within a weekly schedule. 

Online education providers were uniquely prepared for the strange circumstances of the pandemic. Many already offered flexible learning models to suit working professionals and sophisticated technology to support learning within this environment. Online courses often allow the learner to set the pace of study. This is more convenient for those juggling busy schedules and responsibilities.

Just like flexible remote working structures, when a student has autonomy over where, when, and how they study, they are better set for individual success. Online learning also provides students with the ability to adapt course materials and suit their unique learning styles. Video tutorials can be paused and re-watched to truly absorb information. Written text can be resized, highlighted and consumed when the learner is most focused. Online education can also be more inclusive for students with disabilities. Learning can take place at home, sound can be adjusted, subtitles used, transcriptions offered and personal technology applied for text to speech applications.

Investing in a degree for future success

It’s never too late to pursue a degree, and online learning provides a great opportunity to achieve this. As the pandemic has demonstrated, female progress is at greater risk from economic shifts. Higher education provides safeguards against regression and instability.

Pursuing a degree in the field you are most experienced in enhances the chance for promotion or pivoting to a different sector of this industry. With a degree, higher-level roles are achievable and the course costs can be regained from earning a more competitive salary. 

There are also degrees in business, finance and technology that are sought after and transferable within many different industries. The dedication signaled by earning a degree is also appreciated and respected by employers.

For individuals interested in entrepreneurship, a business degree will be a valuable asset to understanding operations, finance, marketing, networking and business ethics. Having this background knowledge from the start will prevent potentially costly mistakes and the stress of learning these skills as they become paramount to growth.

The pandemic may have significantly impacted many women’s career prospects and progress, but the developments in working structures and access to opportunity may be a surprising advantage for the future. Online education may be the resource we need to overcome the current challenges and thrive within our independent goals – without compromising our lifestyle preferences and responsibilities.

Read Building the Future: Preparing Teachers Online Through Moreland University.

About the author

Gemma Dodd is a freelance journalist with a keen interest in business methodology, cultural transformation and societal trends impacting the future of work. She is also a Marketing Specialist at Shift6 Studios working with clients on reinforcing brand messaging and developing content strategies.